Trump Administration Considers Expanding Oil, Gas Development in Arctic Reserve

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management on Nov. 21 issued a draft environmental review for a new integrated activity plan for the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The proposal includes an alternative that would open as much as 18.3 million acres, or about 80 percent of the reserve, to oil and gas development, undoing Obama-era protections on drilling in the region. The agency is updating a 2013 plan that had put half of the acreage off limits to development to preserve habitat and conserve subsistence resources.

The bureau initiated the environmental review in November 2018 to develop a new management plan for the region, following a June 2017 secretarial order that calls for safe development while avoiding regulatory burdens that impede energy production and constrain economic growth. 

The plan includes four alternatives, including maintaining the current level of 11.8 million acres. The second option would cut the acreage eligible for drilling to 11.4 million. The third and fourth alternatives would expand energy development significantly to 17.1 million acres and 18.3 million acres, respectively.

Comments on the draft plan are due by Jan. 21, 2020.